What is Feminism?
People who confuses feminism with egalitarianism have missed the conspiracy of feminism. I will clarify why feminism does not liberate women by distinguishing feminism from egalitarianism.
1. Feminism is not egalitarianism
In US, the enlistee system took the place of conscription in 1973, and many women volunteered for military service. Feminists argued whether it was desirable for women to take part in battle. Some feminists approved of women being equal to men in the military occupation. Others objected to it, because war is against the female nature.
Such a disagreement came from confusing feminism with egalitarianism. Egalitarianism is the formal ideal that all persons should be treated equally regardless of ascription including sex and does not commit itself to the substantial value, such as justification of wars, while feminism is the ideology of womanliness.
Feminism is often regarded as egalitarianism that tries to make a society gender-free. But the name of feminism itself is not gender-free. The ideal of minimizing the gender difference should be called not feminism but egalitarianism.
2. The radical feminism
Although the women’s liberation movement from the mid 1960s to the mid 1970s aimed at mere gender equality, women got to notice just trying to be the same as men presupposed the predominance of the masculine value over the feminine. Here comes the radical feminism that emphasizes the gender difference and insists on the predominance of the feminine values over the masculine. This indicates feminism has sought the identity of women rather than the genderless rights.
A result of such radical feminism is the ecofeminism in concert with the environmental movement prospered in the 70s. The ecofeminism compares the exploitation of resources and destruction of nature by the modern capitalism to the rape by the male, and insists on protecting the earth by the motherhood. Ecofeminists identifies female/male with tenderness/bravery, nature/civilization, cooperation/competition, peace/war, and feeling/reason and accuse masculinity as the logic of power politics.
Ecofeminism is not the symmetrical counterpart of the traditional male-oriented sexism. The latter opposes women getting manly, while the former desires that the male also should get womanly. Sexism is mere egoism, but feminism is a philosophy.
Another branch of radical feminism is Marxist feminism, which compares the male/female relation to that of the other exploitation, such as bourgeois/proletarian, developed/developing countries and so on. That’s why Marxist feminists have a sense of solidarity toward the male proletarian or the male in the third world.
In order to explain the difference between sexists and feminists, I must explain the difference between sex and gender. An individual’s self-conception as being male or female is sometimes different from actual biological sex. For most persons, gender identity and biological characteristics are the same. There are, however, circumstances in which an individual experiences little or no connection between sex and gender, in transsexualism, for example. Feminism is gender-conscious but not always sex conscious.
Of course, gender cannot be utterly different from sex. If women who prefer competition like Margaret Thatcher increases, you will not be able to say the competitive society is based on the masculine values.
3. The trap of radical feminism
The biggest problem of the gender-conscious feminism consists in that it confines women to womanliness and thus deprives them of freedom of choice. We had no freedom to choose sex before birth and, as the technology for a sex change is insufficient, have little freedom to change sex.
Feminists or masculinists as gender maximizers are obstructive to transgenders whose gender is opposed to their sex. It is because their surroundings are gender-conscious that the transgenders want to cut off their breasts or penises.
The so-called Orientalism has the same problem as feminism. Recently the Western philosophers have reconsidered their ethnocentrism and taken interest in the Eastern philosophy. Though I live in Asia, I am not glad at this Orientalism, because I do not want to confine myself to the Eastern philosophy. I heard a Japanese scholar, who had been studying Kant and went to Germany, tried to deliver a lecture on Kant, but as no German were likely to listen to it, decided to talk about Zen and succeeded in gathering audience. Female philosophers are also likely to attract public attention, when they profess themselves to be feminists.
The species, “Japanese" or “woman", are not those of their own choice. When the property of species differs from that of an individual belonging to the species, the individual feels alienated, even if the property of the species is praised.
Let’s go back to ecofeminism. For the African that yearn for rich town life in advanced countries, the discourse of European ecofeminists, who admire the rich nature of Africa, seems hypocritical. A man who admires feminism and does not want woman to be manly is like the city-dweller in advanced countries who admires the rich nature of poor countries and does not want developing countries to be developed, though the natives long for a city life. Ecofeminism is a shrewd trick to preserve good old womanliness and virgin nature by making the poor and women have proud self-identity.
4. Feminism does not liberate women
The black once tried to reverse the racist values by comparing the white to cold ice and the black to warm sun. Such an affirmative action is not radical at all. The most important and radical revolution is not to reverse the racist values but to abandon the racism itself. Similarly, radical feminism is not radical at all. We must abandon the gender-conscious question itself: Which is superior, masculinity or femininity? I believe the 21-century will not be the age of women but the age of individuals.